AS A teenager he was skinny but tough. He hung out with the street-smart kids of Davao City. Twice expelled from the Ateneo de Davao, an all-boys’ school run by the Jesuits, he eventually finished high school after seven years and went on to finish his law degree at the San Beda College, in Manila, in 1972. After passing the bar, he then served as special counsel to the city government and, eventually, as assistant city fiscal. But it was the label of being an “accidental mayor” that first made him known to the public.
Believe it or not, this avid supporter of and a beloved friend to the Marcoses started off his political career based on a stance against the dictatorship of the late-president Ferdinand Marcos. Rodrigo Duterte’s mother, a staunch supporter of then-president Corazon Aquino, who catapulted into power through the 1986 bloodless people’s revolution against the strongman, had begged off to be the city’s OIC, saying she had no plans of joining politics, and pushed for the appointment of her son, Rodrigo, instead.
Then, as someone who had never thought of becoming a mayor, Duterte won the mayorship of his hometown in 1988 and stayed as its chief executive until 1998, then ran for a seat in Congress, and back to being the mayor of Davao City. He described these stints as less than fulfilling years of his life.
Seen by many as among those rare breed of politicians who walk the talk, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has been dubbed “The Punisher” and “Dirty Harry of Davao.” His ironclad leadership provokes critics not only in the Philippines but also in the international community, particularly in the European Union, a 28-member economic and political bloc, but here are some facts that many people, particularly his avid supporters, think he had been destined to be President of the Philippines:
Duterte has strong political roots that are originally from the central Philippine province of Cebu. His father, the late former Davao Gov. Vicente Duterte, was mayor of Cebu’s Danao City, while his uncle Ramon was mayor of Cebu City from 1957 to 1959. His cousin Ronald served as Cebu City mayor from 1983 to 1986. The Almendras and Durano clans of Cebu are considered relatives of the Dutertes. It was during the 1950s when his father and their family moved to Davao, leaving behind some of their relatives in Cebu. Ramon Durano, who was a former Cebu congressman and mayor, is a known Marcos supporter. In Durano’s autobiography, he praised Marcos and described him as the “greatest leader the Philippines ever produced.”
No to same-sex union
While he has now opposed same-sex marriage, Duterte had announced during his presidential campaign that he believed in diversity. He had allowed gay candidates, along with a Muslim and disabled, in his ticket. In 2009, he criticized the Commission on Elections for kicking out Ang Ladlad, a gay-rights group, from its party-list slate. He had also helped pass a Davao City ordinance against the discrimination of the LGBT+ community.
In 2002, Duterte became the anti-crime consultant of then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who admired his iron-fist leadership of Davao City. Riding his Harvey big bike, Duterte would drive around the city to ensure that everything was taken care of. He made a policy of “doling out groceries to cops as a way of curbing their temptation to elicit bribes.” He once owned a second-hand Harley Davidson; now he has a Yamaha Virago.
Although raised a Catholic, Duterte admitted that he has never been a regular churchgoer.
He said he no longer goes to church because he cannot perform his political duties and be a devout Catholic at the same time. But he also confessed that he hasn’t completely abandoned his faith. Amid the controversy he encountered, he revealed that he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest while studying at the Ateneo de Davao.
He is a bookworm, never mind that he strikes many people as a “bad boy.” His close friends would attest that he reads every imaginable topic like Philippine history, especially that of Mindanao, economics, food security, and politics. He keeps in his shelf copies of biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, Lee Kwan Yew, and Barack Obama, among other world-renowned figures who have shaped world politics.
*Updated from an article published in this paper on June 30, 2016, when Duterte took his oath as the 16th President of the Philippines.